And it’s saving thousands of lives
This immune-quieting method works better than the alternatives and is saving lives.
In the study, the researchers observed more than 1,000 patients that received the desensitizing procedure along with incompatible transplants. The researchers matched them to an equal number of patients who stayed on the waiting list without receiving a transplant (receiving only dialysis), and those who eventually did receive a compatible transplant.
Every year, the patients who received the incompatible transplant had a significantly higher likelihood of survival. After eight years, about 77 percent of those who had received the incompatible transplant were still alive, compared to 44 percent of those patients who were still on the waiting list. And though desensitization is expensive, so is dialysis, the study authors argue.
“For the first time, we have definitively shown that incompatible live donor kidney transplantation provides almost twice the survival of a patient’s next best option,” Dorry Segev, a professor of surgery at Johns Hopkins and the lead author of the paper, said in a press release. “This is great news for patients who have healthy, willing live donors but who have been relegated to the waiting list because of HLA [antigen] incompatibilities. Through this study, we now know that those donors can donate today, those transplants can happen and those lives can be saved.”
That’s heartening news for patients currently waiting for a kidney transplant, especially since exciting sounding bioengineering schemes designed to increase the number of organs available to recipients aren’t yet being implemented. If more hospitals transplant incompatible organs (after using the desensitization technique), they could save thousands of lives per year.
The same technique could be used for recipients of other types of organ transplants, too.